Tuesday, January 31, 2006

Mark Cuban

On my KMOX show this afternoon, I had a lengthy conversation with Mark Cuban, billionaire owner of the Dallas Mavericks, HDnet, Landmark Theaters, 2929 Entertainment, and more.

We talked about new entertainment delivery technologies, like the multi-platform release of the Steven Soderbergh movie "Bubble," which hit theaters, DVD, and HDnet all at the same time this week. He explained why movie theaters owners are mad about this simultaneous release, but shouldn't be. It's all about that new business paradigm I keep talking about, in which you can only succeed by giving people the content they want in a way that's best for them to consume on their own terms.

We also talked a little sports. I asked him if he's interested in buying the St. Louis Blues (or branching out into any other franchises), what he thought of the Antonio Davis incident a couple of weeks ago, and whether fans have gotten out of control.

Finally, since Cuban is also involved in a couple of internet companies, we discussed online privacy and the recent Google case, among other topics.

Listen to the conversation here and read Cuban's personal blog, too.

In-N-Out 100x100 Hamburger

Thanks to Mark Evanier for tipping this one. A couple of guys were drunk in Vegas and decided to go to the legendary west coast fast food place In-N-Out for a hamburger -- a really big one, with 100 patties and 100 slices of cheese between only the top and bottom of the bun, the ultimate vegan nightmare. Warning: do not click the link if you have a weak stomach.

For previous POTDs, see the Picture Of The Day page.

Monday, January 30, 2006

Bull In The Stands

During the annual Running Of The Bulls in Pamplona, I always root for the bulls, so I couldn't help but smile when a bull decided not to fight to the death in a Mexico City bullfighting ring over the weekend. Instead, it pulled a Ron Artest/Antonio Davis routine by jumping into the stands, which were full of fans at the time. One of the bullfighters finally stabbed and killed the unarmed bull. Then everyone went to see "The Matador." Or should have.

Maplewood Police vs. Suspect

Lots of controversy on my KMOX show today about this morning's chase and beating of a suspect by the Maplewood police. Take a look at the video, decide for yourself, and add your comments below.

Update 1/31: KTVI, the Fox station that carried the chase and beating live, doesn't post news video on its site, but some of the raw video is on the site of a San Francisco station. KSDK, the St. Louis station whose chopper-cam caught the beating on tape, no longer has the video on their site, so this link goes to a "Today" show report which includes some of the beating and some reaction.

Blues for the Blues

Great points from a listener today about the St. Louis Blues continuing to dump their quality players and downgrade the team:

As the Blues fire sale continues, it is time for the Lauries to share their savings with the Season ticket holders.

If I wanted to see the Peoria Rivermen, I am sure buying season tickets directly would have been cheaper than paying NHL premium prices.

I think all Blues Season ticket holders will agree, the results of this season, as well as, the remaining roster, is not what the season ticket holders expected when we invested our hard earned money.
This is the worst gutting of a team since the Florida Marlins -- the difference is that the Marlins had just won the World Series, and the Blues haven't won the Stanley Cup in....oh, ever.

State Of The Union Drinking Game

I was going to post Will Durst's State Of The Union Drinking Game, but Aaron Barnhart beat me to it, so I'll just link to it on his TVBarn.com site.

Face Transplant Woman

A story and first-time-in-public photo of Isabelle Dinoire, the French woman who had the world's only successful face transplant.

For previous POTDs, see the Picture Of The Day page.

Wednesday, January 25, 2006

Shredding

Mark Cutshall e-mails, "I ran across this site and thought that you and your listeners might enjoy some industrial strength shredding action: mattresses, washing machines, car bumpers, dishwashers, etc." There's something strangely hypnotic about this, and I had never considered having a refrigerator shredded.

For previous POTDs, see the Picture Of The Day page.

Tuesday, January 24, 2006

Penn Jillette on "The Aristocrats"

Penn Jillette was on my KMOX show this afternoon talking about "The Aristocrats," which was released on DVD today. He explained why he hates the DVD cover, why the movie is dedicated to Johnny Carson, how he and Paul Provenza got all those comedians to appear in the movie, why Buddy Hackett and Rodney Dangerfield didn't, which extras are included on the DVD, and why he doesn't want anyone who's offended by dirty jokes to see the movie. We also discussed a trick that Penn & Teller do in their show at The Rio in Las Vegas involving joke books and the audience, which leads to a nice shot at Sylvia Browne and a nice plug for James Randi (whose Amazing Meeting 4 both Penn and I will be attending later this week in Las Vegas). Listen to the conversation here.

For Penn's books and DVDs of Penn & Teller's Showtime series "Bull***t," click here.

Gary Berntsen, Hunting Osama & Al Qaeda

On my KMOX show this afternoon, I talked with former CIA field commander Gary Berntsen about his book, "Jawbreaker: The Attack on Bin Laden and Al Qaeda." We discussed his reaction to the release of a new Osama threat tape last week, and why we didn't get Osama when we had him pinned down at Tora Bora in November, 2001. He revealed the huge payoffs he had to make to Afghan warlords and the Northern Alliance in our efforts to defeat the Taliban, and why so much of the material in his book was redacted by the CIA. I also asked him about the intelligence failures before and after 9/11, whether the CIA and FBI are playing nice now, and what still needs to be done to help the US intelligence community battle Al Qaeda. Listen to the conversation here.

Burt Bacharach

Legendary songwriter Burt Bacharach was on my KMOX show this afternoon to talk about his career and new CD, "At This Time." After several decades of hits -- from the earliest collaborations with Hal David and Dionne Warwick to his more recent work with Elvis Costello and others -- this is the first time Bacharach has written his own lyrics and become political. Listen to the conversation here.

Coin Stacking

Anyone can stack coins vertically in a straight line, but only those with way too much free time can stack them like this.

For previous POTDs, see the Picture Of The Day page.

Friday, January 20, 2006

Knuckleheads In The News®

As heard today on my KMOX show...

Google Fights For Your Privacy

Privacy is the biggest battleground of the 21st century, and we must stand up against every attempt to violate it, restrict it or impinge upon it.

That's why I have major kudos for Google today. They are fighting back against the Justice Department's wrong-headed attempt to extract information about what you and I and other Americans are searching for online. It's part of the whole Government-As-Nanny trend, ironically, by the same people who claim they want "less government."

I was going to write more on this, but an editorial in today's San Jose Mercury News says it better than I can, so give it a read.

Motorized Picnic Table

Picture Of The Day: The inventor claims this motorized picnic table, which seats 8, can do speeds up to 60mph thanks to a 400cc Honda engine.

While you're at it, take a look at the motorized bar stool.

For previous POTDs, see the Picture Of The Day page.

Thursday, January 19, 2006

Astronaut Mike Mullane

With the 20th anniversary of the space shuttle Challenger explosion next week, I talked with astronaut Mike Mullane on my KMOX show this afternoon. He's a three-time shuttle mission specialist who has some harsh words for NASA in his book, "Riding Rockets"). He explained what was wrong with the culture inside the space agency after Challenger, and the Columbia disaster, and what he thinks still needs to be done.

We also talked the adventure of going into space, how he couldn't sleep onboard because of the awesome view, the impact on astronauts' families, and more. Another first-person story from someone who's done something you and I never have.

Listen to the conversation here.

David Alan Grier

David Alan Grier was on my KMOX show yesterday. We talked about his work on "In Living Color," "My Life With Bonnie," and other projects through the years. Listen to the conversation here. He's appearing at The Touhill tomorrow night.

Leif Garrett

A few decades tend to change a man. Leif Garrett was a cute pop star in the 1970s. Now he's 44 years old and in trouble again for drugs.

For previous POTDs, see the Picture Of The Day page.

Wednesday, January 18, 2006

Juggling Balls & Bucket

Picture Of The Day: I don't know this guy's name, but he's a pretty good juggler, and the buckets are a nice twist -- as are the bloopers that come at the end.

For previous POTDs, see the Picture Of The Day page.

Tuesday, January 17, 2006

Save Energy, Pay Anyway

Due to a technical problem, the entry from last week about the controversial Missouri energy legislation never appeared on this site, so I'm re-posting it this morning, along with all the comments that came in.

Essentially, the law covers Laclede Gas and other utilities against losses in the event that consumers begin conserving, or the winter isn't cold enough for them to rake in the money. So, if you turn your thermostat down, take shorter showers, use your gas stove less, and do other things that would normally cut down on your gas bill, you'll be hit with a surcharge of, on average, ten percent.

On my KMOX show last week, Warren Wood of the Missouri Public Service Commission explained the law (listen to the conversation here). Later, George Csolak of Laclede Gas called to give his company's spin on the law (listen to that conversation here). Outraged listeners weren't satisfied with those explanations, as the phones rang nonstop and the e-mails and comments poured in. Add yours below.

Happy Birthday, Ben Franklin

Happy 300th birthday to the Greatest American Ever, Ben Franklin.

His words still ring true today:

"Those who would give up essential Liberty to purchase a little temporary Safety, deserve neither Liberty nor Safety."
I also like:
"Tell me and I forget. Teach me and I remember. Involve me and I learn."
But Franklin was a lot more than just a great quote machine. What else did he accomplish? Let's start with these, compiled by Tom Ferrick at the Philadelphia Inquirer:
Even before his retirement at 42, Franklin found the time to run a printing business, raise a family, publish a newspaper, write Poor Richard's Almanack, help create the colonies' first fire department, organize the city's town watch, start America's first lending library, found what would become the American Philosophical Society, start the college that became the University of Pennsylvania, lead the militia that drove hostile Indian tribes from the Lehigh Valley, serve in the colonial legislature, invent the Franklin stove, and begin his groundbreaking experiments on electricity.

What to do for an encore?

After his retirement, Franklin completed his experiments in electricity, served as representative of the colonies in England, returned to Philadelphia to help draft the Declaration of Independence, served as minister of the new nation in France, invented the lightning rod and bifocals, charted the Gulf Stream, and helped write the U.S. Constitution.
Not bad for a guy only worth a hundred bucks.

Conan O'Brien & Robert Reich

The very tall NBC late night host and the not-so-tall former Secretary of Labor team up as a detective duo for this year's funniest buddy-cop movie.

For previous POTDs, see the Picture Of The Day page.

Nagin's "Chocolate" New Orleans

Yesterday, Mayor Ray Nagin said,

"New Orleans was a chocolate city before Katrina and...this city will be chocolate at the end of the day. This city will be a majority African-American city. It's the way God wants it to be."
Immediately after hearing those remarks, I wondered on the air whether the mayor had ever heard of white chocolate.

Last night, Nagin backtracked, telling WDSU-TV,
"How do you make chocolate? You take dark chocolate, you mix it with white milk, and it becomes a delicious drink. That is the chocolate I am talking about. New Orleans was a chocolate city before Katrina. It is going to be a chocolate city after. How is that divisive? It is white and black working together, coming together and making something special."
Riiiiiight.

As for Nagin's God comments (he also said God sent the hurricanes because "God is mad at America," citing our presence in Iraq as one reason), I expect him to guesting on "The 700 Club" with fellow wacko Pat Robertson any day now.

Monday, January 16, 2006

We Are Stardust

Phil Plait is the guy I call whenever something cosmic goes down, such as this weekend's return of the Stardust mission after a nearly three-billion-mile roundtrip to bring pieces of a comet back to earth. On my KMOX show this afternon, Phil explained what that means, what NASA did, and why we should care. Listen to the conversation here.

Phil first became known to my audience several years ago when he debunked the nonsense about the moon landing being a hoax, and has returned to discuss other space-related topics. As his Bad Astronomy blog proves, he's very good at putting complex concepts into easily understood terms for non-scientists like you and me.

Phil and I will both be at The Amazing Meeting 4 next week in Las Vegas -- a great get-together organized by and for the benefit of the James Randi Educational Foundation. Among those attending/performing are magicians Penn & Teller, Mac King, and Jamy Ian Swiss; Mythbusters Jamie Hyneman and Adam Savage, actress Julia Sweeney, publisher Michael Shermer, and astronaut Ed Lu (who performed the first card trick in space on board the shuttle with Randi's earthbound assistance) -- plus at least another 800 of us. They might be able to squeeze you in at the last minute if you show up.

Considering our discussion today, it's ironic that TAM4 will take place at the Stardust Hotel and Casino, which will be turned into dust next year to make room from another mega-resort at the north end of The Strip.

Boiling Water to Ice Crystals

Which will freeze faster when thrown into the air on a sub-zero day, cold water or hot water? The answer is hot water, as proven in this video. A weatherman explains why here.

For previous POTDs, see the Picture Of The Day page.

Sunday, January 15, 2006

Hustle

AMC used to stand for American Movie Classics, but now stands for movies you've seen or avoided a hundred other places, with far too many commercials added this time around. The channel has become virtually unwatchable.

However, last night, I saw the debut of a new series, "Hustle," which is not American, not a movie, and not classic (yet). So, naturally, it's on AMC, but it wasn't a waste of time.

"Hustle" aired in the UK two years ago and is just now appearing in the US. It's about a group of con artists in London, led by Adrian Lester (Henry Burton in "Primary Colors") and including Robert Vaughn (whose role had better get better over the next couple of episodes, or he risks coming off as The Old Guy Who's Only There For Comedic Relief).

I've always been drawn to good con stories, from "The Sting" to "House of Games" to "Confidence," and "Hustle" seems to be off to a good start. New episodes debut Saturday nights on AMC, then rerun for several days. Check it out and add your comments below.

Friday, January 13, 2006

Highway 40 Screwup

MODOT had a public forum about the rebuild of Highway 40 that's scheduled to start next year. It looks like they're going to close the whole highway down for three and a half years, but when it reopens, there won't be any new lanes east of I-170. That's idiocy. I'm talking about it right now on my KMOX show, and listeners are as outraged as I am.

It's time to let the Governor know how we feel. He doesn't give out his direct e-mail address, but you can send him a message via his website, or call his office, 573-751-3222.

Update 1/31: MODOT announced today that they won't close the entire length of Highway 40, but will do the reconstruction one segment at a time. For many commuters, that's effectively the same as closing the whole thing down, because the detours through local streets during rush hour will be untenable.

Update 2/1: Here's another number, 314-340-4100, which gets you to "The New I-64 Project Office" in Chesterfield. They also have a website with an interactive map of the rebuild plans (such as they are, not yet finalized).

Toner Warning

Over the course of the last hour or so, as I've scanned the web for interesting stuff to talk about on my KMOX show, I printed out at least a dozen pages of articles and other info. But when I finally got around to taking them out of the printer, every one of them was unreadable because the printer was too low on toner. That meant having to go back and find all of those websites and print them out again, after putting in a new toner cartridge.

Why isn't there an indicator to tell me when the toner level gets so low? There's one on my car to tell me when I'm low on gas. The printer even sends a message to my desktop telling me when I'm out of paper. So why isn't there a similar onscreen message or icon saying, "you'd better put a new toner cartridge in, or you won't be able to read anything you're printing!"

C'mon, HP, Canon, and every other printer manufacturer, this shouldn't be a tough one -- and I know I'm not alone in the problem. Ideas, anyone?

"The Matador" opens

Movie recommendation: "The Matador" opens today, and you should see it and thank me later (in the comments section below).

I went to a screening in November and was so impressed that I invited the director, Richard Shepard, onto my KMOX show to talk about it. I blogged at the time:

The movie stars Pierce Brosnan as a professional hit man, but the character is as unlike James Bond as you can imagine. He's good at what he does, but he's vulgar and crass -- and going through a midlife crisis in which he discovers that he has no friends except hookers and dirtballs. That's when he meets Greg Kinnear's character, a down on his luck businessman, in a Mexico City hotel bar, and wedges his way into a friendship with him. "The Matador" was enough of a success at Sundance to get the Weinsteins interested, and they're now distributing the movie, which I think has a pretty good chance of being a hit.

Shepard and I talked about his love/hate relationship with hit man movies, how he got Pierce Brosnan to play the role (and do a scene where he walks through a hotel lobby in nothing but his underwear and boots), how he was in "movie jail" for a decade after his first movie was a complete bomb, how important the opening weekend will be, and lots more inside-Hollywood stuff. Listen to the conversation here.

Thursday, January 12, 2006

Bad Jocks Of The Year

Bob Reno, editor and publisher of BadJocks.com, was back on my KMOX show this afternoon to reveal for the first time which athletes, coaches, cheerleaders, and others from the sports world qualified as contenders for Bad Jock Of The Year.

Duck! Shrimp!

Lawsuit of the Day: He wrenched his neck trying to avoid a flying shrimp at Benihana, and eventually died. The family wants $10 million. I could see suing if the chef had accidentally flung a knife in the customer's direction, and it caught him in the carotid artery. But this guy's dead because of complications from surgery, not flipped seafood.

Life's Little Annoyances

This afternoon on my KMOX show, Ian Urbina told stories about people who have had it with "Life's Little Annoyances" and decided to fight back. If you have a contribution, he's collecting new stories on his website for what is sure to be volume two.

Ian mentioned a guy who has compiled a list that can help you get through those annoying phone trees, where they keep prompting you to push buttons on your phone, but make it impossible to reach a human being. Here's that list.

AWOL Marine update

Update: Jerry Texiero, the US Marine who went AWOL instead of going to Vietnam 40 years ago, has been discharged and released by the military. There will be no trial, no jail time.

Christine Brennan on Figure Skating

Christine Brennan was on my KMOX show yesterday to talk about the US Figure Skating Championships, which are going on this week here in St. Louis. She explained how Michelle Kwan might make the US Olympic team even though she's not competing, who are the American favorites, whether the problems with judging from the 2002 games scandal have been fixed, and more. Listen to the conversation here.

Christine is a sports columnist for USA Today and covers figure skating for ESPN and ABC. She wrote two definitive books on figure skating ("Inside Edge" and "Edge of Glory") and has a new book due this spring called "Best Seat in the House: A Father, a Daughter, a Journey Through Sports."

How's That Medicine Taste?

I have nothing to contribute to any discussion of the Alito hearings except this: I love the irony of politicians getting frustrated because someone won't answer a direct question. That's what they've spent their entire careers doing. Now, on with the countdown.

Your Car Is Spying On You

As heard on my KMOX show yesterday...

Whether you know it or not, there's a device in your car that's keeping track of how you drive. It's like the black box on an airplane, but it was installed by the manufacturer without your knowledge or permission. Here's info on the devices, called Event Data Recorders.

Cyclops, The One-Eyed Cat

Meet Cyclops, The One-Eyed Cat. If this is a hoax, it's a good one.

For previous POTDs, see the Picture Of The Day page.

Wednesday, January 11, 2006

Minivan vs. Hydrant

In Santee, California, a woman backed her minivan over a fire hydrant. The ensuing rush of water lifted the back of the vehicle several feet off the ground and held it up until firefighters lowered the pressure -- and the vehicle.

For previous POTDs, see the Picture Of The Day page.

Tuesday, January 10, 2006

CNN's Anderson Cooper

On my KMOX show this afternoon, I talked with CNN's Anderson Cooper about what went wrong in covering the West Virginia mine explosion and its aftermath last week, and who is to blame for the incorrect information getting out on his broadcast. We also got into a lengthy discussion of his trip back to Baghdad last month, including how he answers the critics who say Americans aren't getting a real picture of what's happening there, how he stayed safe in a nation where yet another journalist has just been kidnapped, and whether the Iraqi police and army are anywhere close to taking responsibility for the security of their own country. Listen to the conversation here.

Anderson apparently has some seriously dedicated female viewers, because I got quite a few unsolicited e-mails from women who call themselves "Anderfans" all across the country -- who either read this website or listen to the streaming audio on KMOX.com -- with questions they wanted me to ask him (sorry, I only had time for two of them on the air!).

Smoking Gun Says James Frey Lied

The Smoking Gun says James Frey lied when he said his bestseller "A Million Little Pieces" was nonfiction. This is going to upset quite a few people who read the book and believed it, such as my wife.

This afternoon on my KMOX show, I talked to TSG's Andrew Goldberg about what they've uncovered about the book, which has been #1 for over three months, sold over 3.5 million copies, and was chosen by Oprah for her book club. He not only explained what the investigation revealed, but also the response from Frey and his publisher. Listen to the conversation here.

Home-Schooler in Marching Band

Big debate on my KMOX show this afternoon about whether home-schooled kids should be allowed to participate in extracurricular activities at their nearby public school. Fifteen states permit it, not including Missouri and Illinois.

It was sparked by the story of Chris Cartwright, a 9th-grader who wants to play in the marching band, but the school district said he wasn't eligible because he was home-schooled. The parents enrolled him as a fulltime student so he could play in the band, but they're upset at the official policy, which they're trying to get changed.

I'm on the side of the public schools. If the school's not good enough for your kid to learn during the regular school day, then it shouldn't be good enough for the marching band, the lacrosse team, or the debate club.

Opponents often argue, "they pay taxes to support the school, so they shouldn't be kept out." I don't buy it. We support public universities with our state tax money, too, but you can't play on the Mizzou basketball team without attending the school fulltime, so why should it be different with high school teams and activities?

Add your comments to the many below.

Hide & Seek & Wash

Bonus Picture Of The Day: When playing Hide & Seek, don't hide in the washing machine. This isn't a warning for kids, it's a warning for adults, like this father who got stuck in there. To make it even more embarrassing, before a firefighter was able to get him out, a loving family member snapped a picture of dad still stuck in the washer.

For previous POTDs, see the Picture Of The Day page.

Minivan vs. Hydrant

In Santee, California, a woman backed her minivan over a fire hydrant. The ensuing rush of water lifted the back of the vehicle several feet off the ground and held it up until firefighters lowered the pressure -- and the vehicle.

For previous POTDs, see the Picture Of The Day page.

Monday, January 09, 2006

Albert Brooks

I have been a fan of just about everything Albert Brooks has done in the last 30+ years, from his classic "Comedy Minus One" album, to the short films he made for the first season of "Saturday Night Live," to his work in "Broadcast News," to the full-length comedy classics he wrote and directed ("Lost In America," "Defending Your Life"), to his voice work in "Finding Nemo."

I am one of a not-so-small cult of fans who can quote whole scenes of dialogue from one of his earliest masterpieces, "Modern Romance," arguably the funniest movie about a man obsessed with the woman he's broken up with and his attempts to win her back. While it's been available on VHS, it has never been released on DVD, but I'm happy to report that Sony is finally bringing it to market in May. You can pre-order it here (as I have).

Ironically, Albert's newest movie, "Looking For Comedy In The Muslim World," caused a squabble with Sony, which wouldn't release it with that title. When he refused to change it, they told him to take it elsewhere and now, thanks to Warner Independent Pictures, it will open in St. Louis on January 20th.

Albert just appeared on the Letterman show to promote the movie, and also to do a bit in which he said goodbye, under the mistaken notion that this is Dave's last week on the air. In the same spirit as Bette Midler's classic send-off of Johnny Carson in 1992, Albert sang "Thanks for the Memories" with special lyrics for the occasion. There's a clip on the "Late Show" highlights page.

Gary Dretzka, Consumer Electronics Show

On my KMOX show today, technology correspondent Gary Dretzka reported from Las Vegas on all the new stuff that was introduced at the huge Consumer Electronics Show this weekend. We talked about the many portable video options, the new applications for content on cell phones, the amazing size that HDTV screens have grown to, and the two competing formats for high definition DVDs.

Listen to the conversation here and read his Digital Nation column for more information.

Flaming Mouse In The House

The most bizarre news item of the day sounds like a Dr. Seuss story:

I do not like a mouse in my house.
I caught the mouse and removed him from my house.

I burned some leaves on my lawn in a pile.
I threw the mouse on top for a while.

The mouse from the house was engulfed in flames.
For what happened next I have to take blame.

The mouse didn't like being on fire, he did not
The fiery mouse got out of there, he got

The ignited rodent ran back in the house
With his body on fire and no water to douse

I did not like that mouse on fire
When it turned my house into a funeral pyre

The mouse so hot ran around and around
Inside my house 'til it burned to the ground

I don't like mouse cold, I don't like mouse hot
I did not like that mouse, I did not
Updated 1/10: The story turns out to be false. The homeowner now says the mouse was dead when he threw it on the fire, and the flames probably reached his house due to high winds. However, he did lose everything and had no insurance.

Another update 1/11: Maybe the story is true -- the homeowner has reversed himself again.

Friday, January 06, 2006

Wacky Warning Labels

The folks at Michigan Lawsuit Abuse Watch have their winners of the Wacky Warning Label Contest:

#5) A baking pan with the warning, "Ovenware will get hot when used in oven."

#4) A bottle of dried bobcat urine, used to keep rodents and pests away from plants, with the warning, "Not for human consumption."

#3) A cocktail napkin with a map of the waterways around Hilton Head, SC, that also said, "Caution: Not To Be Used For Navigation."

#2) A kitchen knife that warns, "Never try to catch a falling knife."

#1) A heat gun and paint remover that produces temperatures of 1,000 degrees and warns, "Do Not Use This Tool As A Hair Dryer."

No Cold Beer Here

State Senator Bill Alter wants to ban the sale of cold beer in supermarkets and convenience stores. His thinking is that it would cut out the temptation to pop open a cold one in the car, thus reducing drunk driving. The idea was suggested to him a fifth-grader who was learning about state government. Stores that sold cold beer would risk losing their liquor licenses.

I don't drink anymore, so it won't affect me, but when I did, beer was my beverage of choice, and there was nothing worse than a warm beer. In this part of the country, where a cold beer is almost a birthright, most of my callers are outraged by the proposition. Add your comments below.

He's A Lover, Not A Fighter

Picture Of The Day: There's not a lot that's illegal in an Ultimate Fighting match, but the one thing you don't want to do is kiss your opponent. When one fighter did, the other guy knocked him out -- and the fight hadn't officially begun yet! This is from Japanese TV, but wait for it. [thanks to Bob Reno at BadJocks.com for the link]

For previous POTDs, see the Picture Of The Day page.

Thursday, January 05, 2006

AWOL Marine

From my KMOX show this afternoon...

Jerry Texeiro didn't want to go to war, so he walked away from Camp Pendleton when the rest of his unit was called up. Now the military wants to court-martial him. Oh, did I mention that the war was in Vietnam, and this was 40 years ago?

Callers are split between giving this guy the maximum sentence (3 years in the brig and a dishonorable discharge), letting him go, or some alternative sentence.

What do you think?

Gotcha, Sylvia!

Fox's Roger Friedman confirms that Sylvia Browne did make a fool of herself on George Noory's show the other night with her comments about the miners. He has a transcript of the whole thing posted on his 411 page. He also refers to a show I did two years ago with James Randi in which he came right out and called her a liar (that show, by the way, is one of the most downloaded pieces of audio on this website).

Who'da Thunk It?

Only a few days in, this is already a year full of shocking news:

  • A corrupt lobbyist tried to influence legislation by giving politicians millions of dollars.
  • Working in a coal mine is very dangerous.
  • Lindsay Lohan has bulimia.
These kind of revelations shake you to the very core, don't they? It's almost as if everything we believed might be wrong.

Anderson Cooper Explains

CNN's Anderson Cooper blogs about covering the mining story Tuesday night:

For those of us in the media, I'm not sure what we could have done to keep this news from spreading like it did.

When you have the governor of the state giving you the thumbs-up, a congresswoman talking about this on air, hundreds of relatives and family members jubilant, some of who received calls from mining officials, it's tough to ignore what they're saying.

There is only so much you can do short of seeing firsthand who is alive and who isn't. We made requests to have access to the rescue operation, but they were denied.

At some point, you have to rely on officials and the people you come in contact with. We had more reporters on this story and in more places than anyone else -- Randi Kaye, Joe Johns, Sanjay Gupta interviewing the doctor.

We now know company officials had information they chose to withhold. At the very least, we know there was conflicting information in their hands. They chose to withhold that information.

Larry David on "Brokeback Mountain"

Larry David has a very funny op-ed piece explaining why he won't see "Brokeback Mountain":

Somebody had to write this, and it might as well be me. I haven't seen "Brokeback Mountain," nor do I have any intention of seeing it. In fact, cowboys would have to lasso me, drag me into the theater and tie me to the seat, and even then I would make every effort to close my eyes and cover my ears.

And I love gay people. Hey, I've got gay acquaintances. Good acquaintances, who know they can call me anytime if they had my phone number. I'm for gay marriage, gay divorce, gay this and gay that. I just don't want to watch two straight men, alone on the prairie, fall in love and kiss and hug and hold hands and whatnot. That's all.

Rocky Six Pix

Picture Of The Day: A few photos have leaked out of production on "Rocky VI," including stills of Sly Stallone in the ring.

For previous POTDs, see the Picture Of The Day page.

Wednesday, January 04, 2006

Mining the Media Angle

This afternoon on my KMOX show, I led two discussions of the flawed media coverage of the West Virginia miners story.

Aaron Barnhart (TVBarn.com) and Brian Stelter (TVNewser.com) joined me to talk about CNN's Anderson Cooper and others who were caught up in the euphoria of "they're alive!" followed a few hours later by the shock and sadness of "they're dead!" Listen to the conversation here.

Then I expanded the discussion to include the print angle with Greg Mitchell (Editor & Publisher) and John Butler (KMOX News Director). Listen to that conversation here.

It wasn't until this afternoon that we discovered the real culprit in the distribution of the misinformation -- Ben Hatfield, president of the coal mining company. He seems to be the one who withheld the truth from the locals, allowing them to celebrate the good news for three hours, even though he knew it wasn't true as soon as 20 minutes after it had passed from person to person. All it would have taken is for him or his subordinates to explain to the public and the media that, while they didn't know the true status of all the trapped miners, the initial reports were wrong, and no one should be jumping to any conclusions.

It also seems that the people in that West Virginia town didn't hear those first reports from CNN, or Fox, or any other media outlet -- the news spread from the mine to the town to the church by cell phone and word of mouth, and then the media only heard about it from the locals.

The governor deserves some blame, too. He was so caught up in the first euphoria that, even after he discovered the reports were false, he also didn't put out a statement or appear at a press conference to announce that the facts were unclear and the good news may have been premature.

As for what the news outlets will do now, they'll almost certainly turn their attention to investigating mine safety nationwide. Hopefully, they'll also ask repeatedly why the Sago Mine, which had been cited 273 times in the last two years by the feds for safety violations, was allowed to remain open and in business.

One other item, and I need help with this. An e-mailer this morning said he heard Sylvia Browne on George Noory's show last night claiming that her "powers" had told her the miners were all alive. If that's true, it must have happened after those first reports that the miners were alive, and I have to wonder if, after they were discovered to be dead, George called Sylvia on it. Even if the miners had lived, this would be another example of her exploiting a tragedy to do some shameless self-promotion. But since they didn't, she must be held accountable. Right, George?

On the other hand, if this incident didn't occur, and Sylvia didn't make that claim or anything close to it, I'll retract my remarks. So, if you can verify or refute this story, please let me know.

Blaming The Media

It's not even noon, and already I've heard, seen, and read over a dozen comments from people blaming The Media for the mistaken news reported last night in the West Virginia mining disaster.

Yes, there was some sloppy work done, which comes hand-in-hand with live television coverage and print deadlines. There can certainly be debate about what went wrong and who is at fault.

The problem is that every single one of these people blaming The Media are doing it on their radio shows, their TV newscasts, their newspaper websites, or their blogs. What they fail to acknowledge is that they are part of The Media, too.

Yesterday on my KMOX show, a listener commenting on one of the topics went off on a tangent about the Rodney King case, saying The Media didn't tell the truth about it. I wanted to ask him how he could possibly still be harping on the Rodney King case after all these years, but instead I asked him to give me examples of what The Media supposedly didn't report.

He proceeded to repeat many of the things about the case we already know. I asked him, if The Media hadn't reported them, how did he come to know those things, and he said he'd heard them from Michael Savage. I had to point out to him that Savage is a radio host and regardless of how much he wants to play-act that he's an outsider, his job makes him, by definition, part of The Media.

So am I. So is Rush (who started his show today claiming that this story proves that you can't trust The Media about anything, believe it or not). So are all the people at CNN and Fox News Channel and NPR and InstaPundit and DailyKos and The Suburban Journals and Fark -- and that woman who opened a Blogger account because she just has to share some fabulous news about her cats.

You see, there's no membership card to join The Media. It doesn't matter whether you have a radio show that's syndicated to hundreds of stations or heard by two members of your family on a small-town college station at two in the morning. You're still in The Media. Same goes for a local cable access TV show, a free weekly neighborhood newspaper, or even a blog.

If you publish, broadcast, or otherwise distribute content, stop referring to The Media in the third person.

Instead, have the guts to be specific in your complaints. Don't like what some news network did, or the headline in a certain newspaper, or the wording used by a particular blogger? Then vent and rant all you like, but mention them all by name, rather than blaming The Media in general.

This is the new paradigm, and you're part of it. Get used to it.

More on Dick Clark

Following up on our discussion Monday afternoon, Aaron Barnhart has posted an extended piece on Dick Clark's return to his New Year's Eve hosting duties last weekend.

One point that no one has brought up is how this was one of the few "real" TV moments Clark has ever been involved in. As my wife said, it was courageous of Clark to sit there in an icon-busting moment -- he was no longer America's Oldest Teenager, but rather a senior citizen recovering from a stroke -- yet the irony was unavoidable. This man dealing with a very real medical condition and allowing a nation to get a glimpse at that reality is the same man who has spent his entire career producing television renowned for its phoniness and cheesiness.

I wrote about that in a column back in 2002 and, having just re-read it, still stand by everything I said at the time.

Letterman vs. O'Reilly

Picture Of The Day: Sparks flew last night when Bill O'Reilly appeared on David Letterman's show. Letterman obviously doesn't like O'Reilly and chided him for making such a huge ruckus about the non-existent "Merry Christmas" controversy O'Reilly spent most of December trumping up.

Then the discussion turned to the war in Iraq and protestor Cindy Sheehan. Near the end, Dave left Bill speechless when he said, "I'm not smart enough to challenge you point to point on this, but I have the feeling that 60% of what you say is crap."

This link takes you to the Letterman highlights page, then you can click on last night's segment.

For previous POTDs, see the Picture Of The Day page.

Tuesday, January 03, 2006

Red Light Cameras

As I discussed on my KMOX show this afternoon, State Senator Jason Crowell wants to ban red-light cameras in Missouri, now that cities like Arnold, Florrisant, and St. Louis have begun (or are soon to begin) using them. I disagree, because I've seen them cut down on the number of drivers running the red at an intersection near where we lived years ago in Virginia -- the combination of the cameras and the signs were are effective deterrent.

Still, Crowell made some good points in a letter to the editor of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch today, in which he explained his reasoning, saying in part:

Used properly, camera-based traffic monitoring may be a good safety tool, but certain concerns need to be addressed to ensure uniformity statewide. First, contingency agreements, in which companies manufacturing and maintaining cameras get a set percentage of fees collected, should be banned. Second, private companies employing civilians should not be able to control traffic lights and certainly should not issue or profit from citations.
He's right that the cameras should not be installed or operated by a private vendor which receives a kickback based on the revenue generated. That can only lead to abuse, such as shortened yellow lights that catch more drivers running the red, which has happened in other municipalities. Any city that wants the cameras should pay for and install them up front. Public safety should never be privatized in whole or in part.

The other problem, which Crowell didn't cite, is that while the photos provide evidence of the vehicle and its license plate, they don't give enough valid evidence to indict the driver. Therefore, the car owner gets the ticket in the mail and is responsible for it. Critics claim this is unfair to the owner, who may not have been driving the car at the time.

The solution is to treat this crime not as a moving violation, but as a citation in the same manner as a parking ticket. If your car sits at a meter too long, or is parked in a no parking zone, you're responsible for that ticket regardless of who was behind the wheel.

Also, this notion of having someone else driving your car strikes me as much less of a problem than the critics make it seem. What was the last time you lent your car to someone who was not in your immediate family? I can't remember doing it for a very, very long time. If you do, and that person runs the red and causes you to get a ticket, well, you've learned a valuable lesson about who you should lend your car to, haven't you?

What do you think?

Judge Nap on Domestic Spying

Judge Andrew Napolitano, the Fox News judicial analyst, was back on my KMOX show this afternoon to talk about the domestic spying issue.

He explained that, although he's a big supporter of President Bush, he's even more of a constitutional scholar, and it's on that basis that the notion of warrant-less spying bothers him to the extreme. One of the reasons I always enjoy talking to him is because he doesn't hesitate to stand up for the law of the land and the freedoms that America must stand for, no matter the circumstances. Listen to the conversation here.

Judge Nap wrote a fiery op-ed last week along these same lines, saying that the administration's domestic spying program, "constitutes an assault on basic American values and core constitutional liberties."

His book, "Constitutional Chaos: What Happens When The Government Breaks Its Own Laws," was a bestseller and a very good read.

Videotaping the Cops

This topic created a lot of debate on my KMOX show yesterday and today -- if you'd like to comment, here's another chance.

The ACLU is starting a program that will provide video cameras to residents of north St. Louis so they can record the actions of the police in their neighborhoods. They want to document how law enforcement deals with citizens and get evidence of any abuse. Chief Joe Mokwa says it's not against the law, and if any of his officers are doing anything wrong, he certainly wants to know about it, but he hopes the citizens with cameras don't bait or provoke the situtation or get in the way. The president of the St. Louis Police Officers Association says that officers already assume that whenever they do anything in public, they're being videotaped.

Before anyone gets a camera from the ACLU, they'll have to complete a series of workshops on what's expected of them and how to deal with the police. I'll bet that the biggest legal challenge to this won't be from the police, but from citizens who don't get cameras for one reason or another, and end up suing the ACLU!

What do you think of the progam, which is the first of its kind in the US?

Medical Marijuana

Kudos to the Rhode Island legislature, which today overrode the governor's veto to legalize medical marijuana. That makes 11 states that care less about oppressive federal laws and more about patients who want nothing more than relief from severe pain. Chalk up another vote for compassion over hysteria.

Two-Headed Snake

When someone told me there was a story about a two-headed snake, I assumed it was about one of my former bosses. But it turns out to be a real snake, born with two heads, which the World Aquarium in St. Louis is putting up for sale -- at a starting price of $150,000, which is more than that former boss is worth.

For previous POTDs, see the Picture Of The Day page.

Paint Face is #1

Picture Of The Day: The Smoking Gun chose Patrick Tribett as their #1 mug shot of 2005. Congratulations, Paint Face!

For previous POTDs, see the Picture Of The Day page.

Monday, January 02, 2006

Aaron Barnhart, Top Ten TV Shows of 2005

In the TV Barn Radio segment of my KMOX show today, Aaron Barnhart ran down some of the shows that made his list of the Top Ten TV Shows of 2005, some of which you may have missed but might want to catch on DVD. We also discussed Dick Clark's return to ABC's New Year's Eve show. Listen to the conversation here and see Aaron's complete year-end list here.

You'll find Aaron in print in the Kansas City Star and online at TVBarn.com. He's on my KMOX show every Monday at 4:15pm CT. For more Aaron, see these archives.

Banned Words & Phrases

Lake Superior State University has released its annual list of words that should be banished because of "mis-use, over-use, and general uselessness." The list is bound to annoy Randy Jackson, Larry The Cable Guy, and the producers of 24-hour news networks:

  • Surreal
  • Hunker down
  • Person of interest
  • Community of learners
  • Up-or-down vote
  • Breaking news
  • Designer breed
  • FEMA
  • First-time caller
  • Pass the savings on to you!
  • 97% fat-free
  • An accident that didn't have to happen
  • Junk science
  • Git-r-done
  • Dawg
  • Talking points